Intellectual Property Protection in IPL

Intellectual Property Rights has opened numerous ways to take economical advantage in business opportunities during the tournament of IPL. Some we can also refer IPL as Intellectual Property League as this tournament provides various openings in the business. Many people invest huge amounts of money for the teams they support in IPL including their outfit, shoes, t-shirts, etc. IPL also maintains its own website on which it provides the latest news related to the matches and players and also circulates match reports, interviews of the players and announcements related to the game. The functioning of IPR comes into play at each and every instance, be it, a brand name, team name, tag-lines, team logo, slogans used by various teams. The IPR plays a very crucial role in increasing the fame and popularity of IPL. Much attention is not given to the Intellectual Property Rights but a huge amount of money is invested in organizing IPL and IPR always contributes to make it a success.

The IPL IPR is given legal protection by a wide variety of means, which includes trade mark and design laws, copyright laws, competition and trade practices laws, telecommunications and broadcast laws relating to signal theft, common law and the terms and conditions under which IPL match tickets are sold and pursuant to which stadium entry is permitted.

Before the BCCI-IPL initiates legal proceedings, a suspected infringer is issued with a legal notice from the BCCI-IPL’s lawyers or its designated agent, to advise the infringer regarding the violations and unlicensed usage of the IPL IPR and/or potential infringements amounting to breach of the media accreditation guidelines and/or the news access guidelines and/or the terms and conditions of download and usage of the IPL Marks. In such event, the infringing party may be given the opportunity, without any prejudice to any rights of the BCCI-IPL for taking legal action against the infringing party, so as to refrain from the continued unauthorized use of the IPL IPR and/or the potential infringements.

Even after the legal notice if the infringer fails to reply to and follow the requirements and conditions set out in the legal notice, the BCCI-IPL will be able to exercise its right to claim its legal and administrative remedies. However, No such prior warning is mandatory, and the BCCI-IPL will utilise all its resources available to completely protect the IPL IPR and ensure that people are legally obligated from any infringement or any rights relating to the IPL.[1]

Let us now look into the types of Intellectual property used relating to BCCI- IPL.

  1. Copyright
  2. Trademark
  3. Design

Copyright in IPL

In IPL, copyright can be applied for the website layout designs and the attire of the players. Bids are conducted every year to assign the right to broadcast all the matches. Currently, STAR India holds the right to broadcast the IPL matches as it won the bid for ₹16347.5 Cr with a five year contract beginning from 2018, earlier the rights were held together by Sony Pictures and World Sport Group as a partnership.

As per the Brand and Content Protection Guidelines, 2018 (IPL Brand Protection Guidelines), audio-visual images of match footages as well as deferred highlights are all protected under IPR. There is a limit to fair use in journalistic coverage to ensure that the official media right holder gets proper returns to the investments. The broadcast must be delayed by 30 minutes and there are no alterations allowed in the original video broadcasted. In order to prevent commercial gains from rebroadcasting, there should not be any intentional advertising while the video is being broadcasted. All these guidelines are mentioned in the Regulations for News and Current Affairs Broadcasters for Audio Visual Broadcasting, 2018 (IPL Media Guidelines).

Copyright in an IPL must be used to protect:

  • Fixtures
  • Published Results
  • Recorded visual images
  • Commentaries
  • Photographs of events, teams and athletes
  • Rule books, reports and other materials used in the administration and promotion of sport
  • IPL title track

Copyright Infringement

In spite of all the strict guidelines laid down by IPL for broadcast media it hardly discouraged copyright infringements hence contending more than 2,400 unauthorised live streaming feeds and over 6,700 unauthorised videos found on the web and therefore pulled down, Meanwhile over 1,300 pirated blogs and websites were shut down.

2015 was a huge disappointment for not only the viewers but also the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) as the organisers failed to get permission for using the music for the opening ceremony from the copyright society which is the IPRS (Indian Performing Rights Society) although it had been taken using the songs played during the matches. A legal notice was issued against BCCI for non compliance by IPRS and BCCI also had to pay the license fees for this attempt.

Trademark in IPL

In sports, trademark protection could be applied for event names, team names and logos, domain names etc, For example, VIVO IPL, DLF IPL, Rajasthan Royals, and Kings XI Punjab. Sports name IPL in itself is a popular merchandise trademark including its teams, events and emblems which hold mercenary value and are an essential component of branding. IPL also has its exclusive caps, jersey, laptop skin, coffee mugs, mobile covers and various types of merchandise also some of them are signed by players which people can purchase online or from stores.

Trademark Infringement

According to Section 29(2)(c) of the Trademarks Act, 1999, a registered trademark is infringed by a person who not being a registered proprietor or a person using by way of permitted use, uses in the course of trade, a mark because of its identity with the registered trademark and the identity of the goods or services covered by such trademark is likely to cause confusion on the part of the public, or which is likely to have an association with the registered trademark.

In 2008, BCCI filed a suit against, an online gaming company. This suit opposed the domain name registration of the famous game ‘Indian Fantasy League’. The name of this game was seen to be deceptively similar to the tournament name “IPL” and even logo. The Madras High Court in its decision held that this amounted to a trademark infringement and prohibited its use.

In 2018, Grace India Sports Private Limited (GISPL) tried to start Indian Junior Premier League. This league also had similarities with IPL. Bombay High Court stated in the decision that since GISPL had started a league also used deceptively similar trademark and domain name such as ‘’ or ‘’, GISPL was then banned from using these domain names and goods of the same kind.



Design in IPL

Design provides protection for the visual appearance of any product but not the functional aspect. A design can be legally protected under the Designs Act, 2000.  In IPL the exclusively designed IPL Cricket bat is the best example of a design.

Ambush Marketing:

Ambush marketing refers the companies to promote their brands or products by associating them with a team, league or event without paying for the privilege. In general Ambush means “An attack from Hidden Position”. In Ambush Marketing, Company uses the opportunity to advertise themselves during the events, in which it’s not an official sponsor. There have been plenty examples in which other companies attracted the limelight, without even being an official sponsors. Some common ambush tactics include the following:

  • For example Advertisements and branded blimps around venues, The Vodafone Super Fan Army, Vivo VIP Box, Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brazza, Television coverage.
  • Free branded merchandise to spectators in the form of flags and jersey during the entrance of the venue;
  • Ads wishing teams “good luck” or “congratulations”- During Champion League 2012,various ads running in television and as well as in the newspapers advertising “Good Luck and Congratulation” to Team India for Champion League Matches.; and
  • Using event tickets as prizes in consumer sweepstakes- This basically correlate as Vodafone Super Fan, Vivo VIP Box in IPL 2017.

One of the biggest instance of ambush marketing is the controversy between Coca Cola and Pepsi over the official status of the cola for the World Cup Cricket tournament of 1996-97, where Coca Cola started an advertisement campaign claiming to be the OFFICIAL COLA of the tournament afterwards Pepsi made out a competing ad with “there is NOTHING OFFICIAL about it” as a slogan for the ad.


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